Does A Weak Economy Mean The Death Of "The 10 MPH Cushion"?

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer
does a weak economy mean the death of the 10 mph cushion

In a number of municipalities, decreases in tax receipts seem to be followed by an increase in traffic tickets according to USA Today [Hat Tip: ClutchCarGo]. Surprised? Clearly you don’t read much of our coverage of the proliferation of speed cameras. It’s no surprise that cities turn to speed cameras to shore up budget gaps, as the companies that sell automated ticketing machines regularly highlight the revenue upsides of their products to politicians. But what about “the cushion,” the five to ten mile per hour grace given by gentlemanly police officers to motorists just barely over the speed limit?

Unsurprisingly, the officers quoted in the story insist that they enforce the law no matter what, but USA Today points to a study that showed local citations typically go up in years after a tax revenue shortfall. Meanwhile, Canton, OH, gave out four times as many tickets in January as they did in January 2009 [ed: was that you Jack Baruth?], more jurisdictions are considering “super speeder” tickets, and we’re even seeing taxes on speeding tickets. Hell, even public transportation is figuring out that more enforcement equals more cash. None of which should come as much surprise at all: TTAC’s “speed law” expert Casey W. Raskob warned motorists of the dangers of cash-starved local governments over a year ago. So, whether you live in a state that actively targets motorist-based revenue or not, watch out. Speed kills… budget shortfalls. But only if you get caught.

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  • Ronin Ronin on Apr 01, 2010

    Is this good business? The fine for way over the speed limit is definitely higher than the fine for a little over the speed limit. It takes as much time for the revenue enforcement officer to write the ticket for either. There's more potential revenue return from stopping the high speed speeder. How many high speed speeders spewing dollar signs from their exhaust will zazz by while the officer is messing around on the side of the road with the low speed speeder?

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    • David Hester David Hester on Apr 01, 2010

      Actually, Ronnie, most of us refer to our groupies as as Badge Bunnies or holster sniffers ourselves, so you're not really hurting my feelings if you do the same. A better analogy to the shyster example would have been to call me a pig. Feel free to use that on the next one of my brothers in blue who pulls you over. I'll be sure to forward a link to this thread up and down the thin blue line so that he'll get the joke. He'll think it's hilarious, I promise. As for referring to Speedlaw as a shyster, that might have been in poor taste, but it wasn't meant as a serious insult. It was intended at worst to be nothing more than low- level friendly Internet ball busting and I figure that Speedlaw's probably been called worse if he's been an attorney for any length of time, as have I. At any rate, I figure he's more than capable of taking care of himself. Speedlaw, if you've came back and are reading this, you've got a free shot if you feel you need it. As for you and the rest of your nonsense, both in this comment thread and the other one further up, I care not. In fact, I figure the best way to deal with you is to bid you farewell and then go back to daydreaming about how awesome it's going to be to retire before age 50 with a pension that pays me roughly my annual salary for the rest of my life to just stay home and futz around on old Camaros while you will still be humping a cubicle, worrying about the hit your 401K just took, and hoping you don't get downsized. It's sure going to be a lot of fun to be able to get out and do stuff while I still have my health instead of having to wait until I'm 65 like you will be. If I get tired of sleeping until noon and drinking beer before five, maybe I'll give the private sector a try. Perhaps as an accident reconstructionist or investigator for the insurance companies. Who am I kidding? I'll go work for the state or Federal government and earn another pension. Oh, and later this afternoon on my way in to work, I'll make sure to push my government owned vehicle, the gas tank of which will be filled with tax- payer funded gasoline, to 100 mph as I pass one of my brothers in blue writing one of the little people up for 75 in a 70. I had plans to be productive today. Got a couple of followup investigations I was going to see about but instead I think I'll take some "me" time on your dime. If the radio calls me, I'll go. Otherwise, I think I'll find a nice tree to park under and read a book. When it's time for dinner, I'll go by my favorite fast food joint and get my lunch for half off. The really cool thing about those last two paragraphs is that you will fume about them all day, whether they are actually true or not.

  • Toasty Toasty on Apr 01, 2010

    @ Joe_Gamer: All I can say about the Taser incident you mentioned is I doubt that would've happened with most of the people I work with. I've carried a Taser and pepper spray for years, and only actually used each of them once. They're both useful tools, but not nearly as useful as having solid verbal skills. If I can employ a Jedi mind trick to avoid a physical confrontation, I consider that a win for everyone. Part of that working is making it clear that there are other, less desirable outcomes. I usually issue a direct order to a subject along the lines of, "I am giving you a direct order to leave this area immediately. If you don't leave, you're going to jail." That's a concise order that's easy to obey, and I rarely say more than that before making an arrest. Please realize that there's usually more discussion leading up to that order, but once I reach that point, it's my duty to enforce the order. If I said it, I know it's a lawful order, and I meant it. If the subject requires the use of force to effect the arrest, that's the result of their decisions, not mine. Here's how I normally handle the few people that refuse to sign a citation. I recently had a driver lie to me about being the victim in a Hit & Run accident. I listened to his account, examined his car and the scene, and determined quite conclusively he was lying. I even had a Hit & Run investigator examine the car and scene without knowing anything about the driver, and he came to the same conclusion. I photographed everything and recorded the driver's statement. I told the driver what I had determined and gave him an opportunity to revise his statement, but he refused, so I issued him a citation. He refused to sign it, so I wrote REFUSED on the citation, gave him his copy, and noted his refusal in my report. Technically, I could have arrested him in this instance, but there was no need to take him to jail. I told him to set a court date if he wanted to argue his case, and I hope he will, but more likely, he'll spend the rest of his life bitching about how some mean old cop screwed him over. I see a lot of that. Here's some advice for anyone that feels the cops are out to get you. If an officer starts acting like an ass, don't escalate the situation, and do your best to document the incident (cell phone cameras, witnesses, etc.). Let them step all over themselves, and if you feel it's worth the effort, make a complaint with their agency. Be aware that quite a few officers are always carrying active recording devices (most of the people I work with are), and those recordings will show up in court or any complaint investigation. If you're unhappy with a law enforcement practice, complain to the agency, the civilian authority, and local media. Despite all of the hyperbole, this isn't Stalin's USSR; exercise your freedoms. Lastly, with regard to traffic enforcement, do your best to drive legally, and go to court if you get a ticket.

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    • Porschespeed Porschespeed on Apr 05, 2010

      I'm not sure where you are but I assure you, 'Patriot' is the law of the land. You can violate the entire Constitution and have no fear - it's all about 'Homeland Security'. (Just the phrase makes me vomit...) There is no Fourth in most of America. As I said, keep fighting the good fight. You are a minority, but a few people who truly believed have always changed the world.

  • Obbop Obbop on Apr 02, 2010

    Uncle Jim, a two-term sheriff, did not hold law enforcement personnel in general in much esteem. His semi-joking general statement in a world of exceptions AND generalities was and is; Cops; too lazy to work a real job and too scared to steal.

  • Golden2husky Golden2husky on Apr 03, 2010

    "....And then there’s the obvious corruption involved in allowing public employee unions to make political contributions. Allowing public employees to have political power is an open invitation to rent seeking..." The recent Supreme Court Ruling (passed by the "Scalito-Roberts" judges on the right) allows Big Business the same ability to buy political will as the unions. Who has the real money to throw behind that? Business can easily bury any labor union. I feel that NEITHER should have the ability to do this, but the fair and balanced judges saw to ignore over 100 years of precedent. "...Federal employees are paid (I won’t say earn) about twice what people earn in the private sector. Their salaries are generally higher and their benefit package is unmatched in the private sector. While state and local public employees’ salaries are more in line with what is paid in the private sector, they average about 40% more in pensions and benefits..." I guess I should call my sister who has a PhD in economics that the feds aren't paying her enough as my salary is about 50% higher than hers and my education stops at a PE. In good times the private sector pays better, period. At least in the engineering field. Even when you count the pension and health benefits the private sector comes out ahead. When times are down like today, people get tossed out with the trash and this exerts a downward pressure on salaries. Those of us who are still employed make an extra effort to make sure we are not on the next cut list and the employers get to milk the workers for all they are worth. Now, the same work is getting done with less, but with the need to stay lean, there are no raises. Morale goes in the toilet but we should be "grateful" that we have a job, right? The civil service folks come out ahead in this situation because the don't have too much of a threat of layoffs (but it can happen). If you are hostile toward the cops - that's where this started - one can easily understand the anger, but to throw every person who works in the public sector in the same category as a crooked cop is just unfair and untrue. Americans take for granted much of what government provides(yes with tax dollars, yawn) but often don't think about what it would be like without those services. All you need to do is look an any third world country with weak ineffective government. They are lucky to have running water, let alone a forum like this to vent their hostility...and they have plenty of crooked "cops"...

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    • Toasty Toasty on Apr 03, 2010

      Moderators: I just saw that my comments in this thread are awaiting moderation. Does that apply to everyone in this thread, or just me? If I've crossed a line, please let me know what it was. Maybe I missed something, but I haven't seen anything said in this thread that requires moderation. If it was my use of the non-hyphenated "a-holes" below that set an automatic flag, my apologies. I just woke up and my sensibilities weren't dialed in, but I edited the word to a more acceptable form. Please delete this paragraph if that was the problem. golden2husky, sounds like you got an eyeful on your ridealong, just as I suspected. You also nailed down part of the perception issue, because the vast majority of citizens are good people that rarely see an officer outside of a traffic stop. I've driven through plenty of speed traps in my travels, and I think they're wrong. I've also let people slide a bit on keeping their registration up to date (but not insurance) and for equipment infractions, because things happen and not everyone has the time and money on hand to take care of problems immediately. Some officers, especially those specifically tasked with traffic enforcement, won't let any traffic charges go uncited, and I know that raises quite a bit of ire among otherwise law abiding folks. As I said, if you believe you're innocent of the charge, go to court and make the officer prove your guilt. However, if you know you committed the offense and are just pissed about other aspects of the traffic stop, you may be better served by complaining to the relevant department or governing body about the officer's actions, or the tactics employed (speed traps, zero tolerance on equipment violations, etc.). There are plenty of crass, arrogant a-holes in my profession, as in most others, but the difference is the power such a person has to abuse. That's why I recommend people take action to curb that kind of behavior, because I don't want to work with those morons, and I sure don't want the public to have to suffer their actions.